In lung disorders such as emphysema and asthma the ability to exhale fully has greatly diminished. Fear and habitual behaviours which builds up as a result of the disorder often mean that a person shortens the exhalation of the breath and uses accessory respiratory muscles rather than using the diaphragm. Over a period of time this habit can lead to more serious lung and heart problems. This breath work helps to counteract this and induces a sense of peace and calm to the body. This breath work is also very beneficial to people suffering from insomnia.
- Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, you can sit in the garden if the weather permits, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional). Whereever, you choose sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose). Keep your spine erect with your shoulders releasing down your spine, lengthen out through the crown of your head.
- Breathing normally, gently count your breath cycle in a full minute. This will give you an idea as to how many breaths you may take in any given minute, depending on what happens in any minute will of course have an impact on the number of breaths you take. Eg. if you are stressed you may take a lot more breaths than someone who is in a relaxed state of mind. Inhaling and exhaling is one round. Most people will be in or around 10 – 18 breaths in a minute.
- When you are ready to begin allow your eyes to gently close, observe the natural rhythm of your breath. Don’t alter or change your breath just simply be an observer to the fact that you are breathing in and out.
- One hand will hold the straw, the other can rest lightly on your knee or thigh. Place the straw into your mouth. Hold the straw with your hand so that you are not unnecessarily contracting your facial muscles, jaw or shoulders, try and keep these as relaxed as you can. Take a breath and let go
- Place your tongue on the straw once you place it in your mouth.
- Breathe in through your nose and exhale through the straw, do not force the breath simply let it flow. The outbreath will lengthen and deepen with practice.
- At the end of the exhalation gently place your tongue on the tip of the straw and breathe in again through your nose. Once more exhale through the straw.
- Continue this process for at least 3 to 4 minutes, longer if you wish. Allow the inhalation to happen naturally, do not force it to happen.
- At the end of each exhalation place your awareness on your diaphragm and feel the gentle bounce/spring back up motion of the diaphragmatic muscle in the centre of your body. This allows the incoming breath to be effortless.
- When you have finished the practice you can count your breathing cycle again. Has it changed? Are you feeling more relaxed and calm?
- When you breathe through a straw it takes longer to exhale. This slows down the nervous system and soothes and calms your body. This helps to combat the fight, flight and freeze response we experience when we feel stressed or under pressure.
- Increases lung capacity by increasing both the inhalation and exhalation.
- Practising this breath work helps to lower blood pressure whilst doing the practice and is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
- Induces a very peaceful state of mind. It helps bring you back to a state of homeostasis (balance). This allows your body to naturally repair itself and helps it to recover.
- This exercise is very beneficial for children / young adults who suffer from asthma. As maintaining concentration maybe difficult in smaller children I often encourage them to use a straw to blow a feather up and down the yoga mat this introduces a fun element. Another option is to use a hollow liquorice whip which is another fun alternative and treat! Adults and kids both like this one and I will admit to using this method myself from time to time – simply inhale and exhale down the straw into a glass of water thus creating bubbles. Let your fun side out. It always lightens our energy and helps to make us smile which is great for the body.
If at any time you feel uncomfortable or sense panic, just stop and take a few normal breaths before resuming again. Sometimes our fear of not taking in enough air can have an adverse effect, but with practise this can be over written.